The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Having your cake ... and not eating it

I often suffer from a bit of a mid-afternoon lull, especially through the winter months, and find myself drawn to one of the numerous delis and cafes nearby to get a cake (or a pastry or a tart or a chocolate croissant) to go with my afternoon cup of tea. It's a habit that I occasionally resolve to kick, but generally just give in to.

This afternoon, I was starting to flag at about 3.30, so I nipped out in the last dregs of daylight to get a little square of lemon polenta cake (a regular favourite). I got back and made myself a nice pot of leaf tea to go with it. I took my mug of tea back to my desk and carried on with work. It was only a couple of hours later, when I got up to stretch, that I realised the cake was still sitting in the kitchen in its brown paper bag ... uneaten!

I guess, it just goes to show that it's actually the break, the fresh air and the activity of wandering down the road and deciding where to go and what to get that I need to perk me up rather than the actual sugar kick. It seems a bit late to eat the cake now, so I suppose it'll keep until tomorrow.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Google search spellcheck

As I've admitted before, my spelling's not great. I generally know when I can't spell a word though, so I check it before committing it to print and with a whole shelf of dictionaries within reach of my desk there's really no excuse. Recently though, I've noticed that I'm increasingly just starting to type a word I'm unsure about into the Google search box at the top of my browser and waiting for it to come up with suggestions. It's a technique I started using mainly to check the spellings of proper nouns (names of people and places or foreign dishes - does moussaka usually have one s or two?), but I've found that I'm now using it more and more, especially if I'm on my laptop away from my desk.

The lexicographer in me wants to object that it's not a reliable or authoritative source, but then arguably, that's not always what you need. For many words, I recognise the correct spelling when I see it, it's just a quick double check when I'm having a bit of a mental blank. And after all dictionary work is all about frequency-based corpus research and what's Google if it's not a massive corpus.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Working in portrait rather than landscape

When I first went freelance, some 11 years ago now, I bought myself a really nice Samsung monitor, which is still going strong. One of the features I liked about it was that you could rotate the screen so that you could work with it 'portrait' rather than 'landscape'. It was great for working on Word documents as you could have almost the whole page on screen together - after all, we still lay out our documents that way, don't we? It felt like a much more logical way to work. Sadly, because the software that came with the screen was on a floppy disk (yes, remember those?!), when I upgraded to my most recent pc, I couldn't install it (and couldn't find anything online). The screen still worked fine, I just couldn't rotate it.

Yesterday though, via one of those random trains of thought and through the wonders of the internet, I discovered that you can simply rotate the display on any computer just by pressing Ctrl + Alt + an arrow key. The left and right arrows turn it sideways, the down key makes it upside down and the up key brings it back the right way up. Go on, give it a go!

Thus my screen now rotates again and I've been happily working away on portrait style documents!

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Today I went to my first Jelly! Jelly is a co-working event where freelancers take their laptops and go along to work for the day alongside other people. I've been feeling a bit unmotivated and stuck in a rut lately, so I thought perhaps a change of location and a bit of contact with other freelancers might perk me up.

So how did my first Jelly go? Well, here are a few of the pros and cons:

  • It was fun having something in my diary to look forward to and break up the week.
  • I got to 'dress up' a bit - I didn't want to go over the top, but went for a favourite shirt with my jeans instead of one of the usual pile of t-shirts.
  • It was very cool to walk to work for a change. It was a beautiful autumn morning and I got to walk through an area of town I don't normally go to.
  • I did get on with quite a bit of work without all the usual distractions.
  • It was nice to meet new people, although that was rather limited by the fact that no one else turned up ...
  • Sadly, it turned out to be just me and Penny, the event organiser, so not quite the sociable, buzzy atmosphere I'd hoped for! Although Penny was really nice, it did feel a bit awkward sitting in a big empty room with just one other person.
  • I had to transfer a load of stuff onto my laptop which I don't generally use to work on and I couldn't take with me the big set of proofs I'm working with at the moment.
  • Because of all my health issues, I'm used to my careful desk set-up, with comfy chair, monitor at the correct height etc., so working on my laptop at not quite the right height, on a rather uncomfortable chair in a slightly chilly room wasn't ideal. Wilder St Studio where the event took place is a multi-functional space, used as a dance studio, rehearsal space, etc. and although it's nice and bright, it's probably not quite my idea of a comfy workspace.
I felt a bit too self-conscious to take any photos myself, so this one's from the Wilder St website.
  • I'm also used to breaking up my working day, taking regular breaks and pottering about the house doing stuff when I'm not at my desk. So sitting in front of my laptop for 3 hours straight felt a bit odd. I certainly couldn't have managed a whole day of it, thus, I gave up at lunchtime and excused myself.
Overall, although today's event probably wasn't quite what I'd hoped for, I still like the idea of co-working. I'll definitely keep an eye open for similar events in the future and I'll give it another go.

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